The Grammy’s haven’t been that kind to Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, but this year’s event will see God Only Knows being used for the In Memoriam section, which will unfortunately feature a lot of great musicians. The special arrangement will be sung by John Legend and Broadway star Cynthia Erivo.
It might be a year late for the 50th anniversary, but Showtime have just announced a documentary on the iconic album, which will be premiered in April. Titled Beach Boys: Making Pet Sounds, it will be the second time Showtime will cover a major Beach Boys/Brian Wilson -they were responsible for Beautiful Dreamer: Brian Wilson And The Story Of Smile , which covered Brian’s revival of SMiLE in 2004. And of course, it will be the 50th anniversary this year of when SMiLE was originally planned to be released.
The first taster of No Pier Pressure was this collaborative track, featuring Peter Hollens. It was released on September 28, 2014, more than six months before the album saw the light of day. Peter Hollens is known as an a capella artist, and although this song does feature some instumentation, it is the lovely vocals that are a standout on the track. Once again, it’s a Brian-related track which has a very special transcendental feel which takes romantic love from the mundane to a very spiritual place.
Hearing this song played in a restaurant recently reminded of the Beach Boys 2012 reunion, which looks like it now won’t be replicated. So here is what I original wrote about the title song of the Beach Boys last album just after its release.
It might look it was written by committee, but sometimes committee’s do produce decent results especially when Brian Wilson is a member (Sail On Sailor and Isn’t It Timeare other examples). This song is symbolic of the 2012 Beach Boys comeback, being the first single and the title track from the comeback album.
That’s Why God Made The Radio works because it is a nostalgic, heartfelt look at the classic era of pop music -it’s a ballad with an understated arrangement, bar a cranked-up guitar in the middle, which may be a sop to the newer generation of listeners. And with Brian back on the lead vocals and the magic harmonies, you know that the Beach Boys are back.
A lot of people are revealing the 10 records that influenced them most as a teenager, so I thought I would join the bandwagon and list mine. You may notice this is a Brian Wilson/Beach Boys free list, as my love for the group only emerged in my 20s. The list probably reflects more the acts that impacted me the most, with the albums being the ones that the have had the longest lifetime impact.
1) Beatles -Abbey Road
2) Simon & Garfunkel-Bookends
3) Bob Dylan- Blood On The Tracks
4) The Jam- Sound Affects
5) The Smiths- The World Won’t Listen (I know technically a compilation…)
6) Kane Gang- The Bad And Lowdown World Of The Kane Gang
7) Bruce Springsteen- Born To Run
8) George Harrison- All Things Must Pass
9) David Bowie- Hunky Dory
10) Paul McCartney & Wings- Band On The Run
When Brian Wilson commenced his return to the road in 1999, his opening track was The Little Girl I Once Knew - chosen it seems as a balance between a minor chart hit/Beach Boys classic and an avant-garde track showcasing Brian’s production skills. Certainly, after California Girls (intro notwithstanding) and Help Me Rhonda, the silences and unconventional song structure were something of a shock, leading to a subdued chart performance.
In retrospect, this single-only track was an important stop on the road to Pet Sounds and SMiLE, with the pocket symphony approach and loss-of-innocence lyrics. As at the start of the 1999 tour, the song is a clear testament to the creativity and genius of Brian.
2016 became more than just a year….by the end of December, it was a malevolent living entity, killing heroes and dividing people in a way that seemed planned by some dark demonic forces. While some people undoubtedly had good years and there was a lot more good than people may give the year credit for, the buzz on social media was certainly around more hope in 2017 than fondness for the year for the year past.
Given the nature of the year, it’s not surprising the biggest story in Beach Boys land was not the autobiographies of Mike Love and Brian Wilson, or the successful Pet Sounds 50 tour, but the possibility of Mike Love’s Beach Boys playing at Trump’s inauguration. There isn’t any doubt Brian Wilson wouldn’t consider it for a second after signing up for the Not Afraid initiative, where he has a prominent place at the end.
So what does 2017 hold? Brian’s rock and roll album? The Bedroom Tapes? The only thing for certain is that Brian’s Pet Sounds 50 tour will extend beyond the 51st anniversary of the album, and while it isn’t exactly a never-ending tour, Brian’s later day role as a road warrior continues. The one thing we have learned is that nothing is certain, and I can only wish readers of the blog health and happiness, as well as love and mercy.
I have two recommendations to add to your seasonal album collection in what has been a good year for Christmas music. First of all, Kacey Musgraves, who should be known to Brian Wilson fans for Guess You Had To Be There from Brian’s latest album, has released her first holiday album, A Very Kacey Christmas which promises a Christmas classic. There are some sassy versions of Christmas chestnuts, but the real meat is the originals, especially Christmas Makes Me Cry, which takes the season to a deep, emptional level.
Katie Melua may have less direct Brian Wilson connections, but her well-crafted pop may well already have a few fans on this page. Her Christmas album, In Winter, takes her to her Georgian roots with the Gori Women’s Choir and it is a lovely combination, with some truly transcendental moments, particularly on the more traditional songs such as the Ukrainian carol The Little Sparrow and Nunc Dimitis.
If you would like to spread a bit of love and mercy this Christmas, supported by Brian Wilson, here is an opportunity. Visual artist Tim Wakefield has created a limited edition artwork of “Love and Mercy,” available now as part of Soundwaves Art: Icons of Music 2016 Fundraiser. Wakefield made the piece by digitally manipulating, shaping and coloring the sound waves from the studio recording of the song. Brian Wilson signed each print at London’s Silver Clef Awards ceremony, where he received a lifetime achievement award. The proceeds will benefit some very good causes. it is printed on fine art paper and numbered with a certificate of authenticity, costing $600.
You can see more details here , and see other pieces supported by artists such as ABBA and Roger Waters.